The Transmodal Capsule (TMC) Concept


This summary has been derived from a Master of Science in Engineering thesis written at the University of Washington, by Richard C. Harkness, in 1970. Many of the ideas it contains are now being talked about again during the late 1990's. In this thesis, Harkness describes a dual-mode concept that provides for the containerization of passengers or cargo and then the movement of that container, called a transmodal capsule (TMC), with various prime movers. The capsule may be carried aboard an electric car chassis for suburban use, a conveyor network for use in center cities, a tunnel or tube for intraregional trips, an airplane for cross-country trips and a ship or ferry when needed. Figure 1 provides an overview that includes sketches of several TMC application ideas. More detail on several of these application ideas is provided in six subsequent figures.

The essential idea of the TMC concept is that the passenger shall be required to make only very minimal physical or mental efforts in using the system, either during the movement of the capsule or in transfers from one prime mover to another. Since the capsule can carry 4 adults and their luggage (see Figure 2 ), they provide the privacy and security of the auto. Routing though the system is fully-automatic, so the capsule can also be used to carry mail, packages and other small products now delivered by truck on a very congested roadway system.

It is vital to note that 1) any urban transportation system should be capable of extension and expansion, 2) such a system cannot be built all at once and 3) a small, limited system must be built first and then expanded incrementally as it proves it worth. Whether or not any system has the intrinsic capability for growth depends on the nature of its hardware, software and the principles of its operation. An ideal system should also be conceptualized in three-dimensions, providing for travel in the vertical direction as well as the horizontal.

One of the greatest advantages of the the TMC concept, aside from direct origin-to-destination travel , in privacy and with very little physical/mental effort , is the fact that once a passenger leaves the capsule, it is immediately available for someone else's use. This would drastically reduce the number of vehicles left idle in parking lots, increases the utilization of capital investments and prevents worry about where to park. Once the passenger disembarks -- in the city almost always right in front of the desired destination -- he forgets about the vehicle. The capsule then proceeds under automatic control to a waiting queue either at that same location or in the nearest terminal (see Figure 3 for an illustration of a large scale TMC terminal).

The TMC system would consist of an extensive network of links. A link may or may not have a guideway track. The majority of links would be on the surface and would connect stations where capsules could be transferred from one prime mover to another. Low speed prime movers would consist of a dense network of conveyors that would form grids within dense urban areas so that no link is further away than a few minutes walk (see Figure 4 ). Such links would run along every third or fourth street in the business district and move at a speed in the 15-20 mph range. There would be load-unload pullovers on every block (see Figure 5 ) where the capsule can leave the main conveyor and come to a stop so passengers could disembark. In urban residential areas, speeds could be somewhat faster (25-30 mph) and the links would be more widely spaced. Capsules could be driven directly to the residence, providing the door-to-door service in some cases ( see Figure 6 ).

Another important attribute of the TMC concept is its potential use for intercity travel. In such a case, the capsules could be loaded onto a truck-like carrier and hauled at high speed on a conventional rail, maglev or some other type of system. Figure 7 provides an illustration of such a concept. In this sense, the concept is like the ideas put forth more recently by Frank and Petrie and somewhate related to the work on the Integrated Transportation System by Guadagno.

In addition, the TMC concept has a lot in common with the Danish dual-mode concept called RUF described by Palle Jensen as well as the Unified Transportation Initiative (UTI) concept described by Beregi .


The title of this thesis is The Transmodal Capsule Transportation Concept and a Postulated Method for Determining Patronage, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 1970 (Call No. TA7 Th18671), 94+ pp. Richard C. Harkness was employed at the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington at the time this thesis was done. He is now retired and living in the Seattle region.



Last modified: June 19, 2006